Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Japan's Prime Minister says his government is in a "STATE OF MAXIMUM ALERT" over the crisis at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant. He told a Lower House budget committee meeting that the situation "continues to be unpredictable" and that the government "will tackle the problem while in a state of maximum alert".
Radiation leak found outside Japan nuclear reactor - Highly radioactive water has been found for the first time outside one of the reactor buildings at Japan's quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant. The leak in a tunnel linked to the No 2 reactor has raised fears of radioactive liquid seeping into the environment. Plutonium has also been found in soil at the plant, but not at levels that threaten human health.
Up until now, pools of water with extremely high levels of radiation have only been detected within the reactor buildings themselves. The water was found in an underground maintenance tunnel, with one end located about 55m (180ft) from the shore. Radiation levels were measured at 1,000 millisieverts an hour, a dose that can cause temporary radiation sickness. This is the same as the levels found on Sunday. However, Tepco said there was no evidence that the contaminated water had reached the sea. Tepco later said that plutonium had also been detected in soil at five locations at the plant but not at levels that represented a risk to human health. It said the results came from samples taken a week ago and would not stop work at the plant. Plutonium was used in the fuel mix for only one of the six reactors, number three.
As well as shortages of food, water and fuel, survivors are also having to endure frequent aftershocks. Japan lifted a tsunami warning earlier on Monday that was issued after a 6.5-magnitude quake struck off the northern coast. The quake is not reported to have caused any injuries or damage. In Miyagi prefecture - one of the worst-hit areas - the authorities estimate it will be three years before all of the rubble and debris has been cleared.

**There is one thing one has to have:
either a soul that is cheerful by nature,
or a soul made cheerful by work, love, art, and knowledge.**
Friedrich Nietzsche

This morning -

Yesterday -
3/28/11 -

BURMA - Junta Possibly Concealing Earthquake Casualties. Hundreds of earthquake victims who were hospitalized in Tachilek on Saturday had disappeared by Sunday, in what sources say was a Burmese government effort to downplay damage from the magnitude 7.0 tremor. On Saturday, reporters visited the Tachilek Hospital and saw that it was overwhelmed by hundreds of earthquake victims, many of them forced to stay out in the open air. Hospital staff estimated at the time that about 700 patients were being treated. Reporters returned to the hospital on Sunday, but saw no patients outside of the hospital building and only normal patients inside in numbers that totalled much fewer than the day before. When asked where the other patients went, hospital staff and patients said they were “sent away” by the local authorities.
Local residents said that earthquake victims were moved away from the hospital after journalists visited and sent out reports, photos and video footage of the earthquake damage and casualties.
Local sources said at least 200 people in the hardest-hit villages in Shan State, including the town of Tarlay, lost their life. About 30 people died in Mong Linn alone, said local residents, and drinking water, medicine, clothes and blankets were urgently needed. Local authorities in Tachilek are accepting aid and supplies donated by individualsi, but won't allow foreigners to visit hard-hit areas such as Tarlay and Mong Linn. Reporters spoke with many people in Tarlay and Mong Linn who remained in fear, were still sleeping on the ground in temporary shelters despite rainfall and thus far were unwilling to rebuild their houses. “We could not sleep well inside the building because we have to flee every time when we feel the ground shake,” said a health official in Mong Linn. Some residents said they intended to relocate as a result of the earthquake.
Meanwhile, hundreds of earthquake victims living in isolated Shan State villages such as Chakuni that are within areas controlled by ethnic armed groups have not yet received much needed drinking water, food, clothing, medicine or aid from government and nongovernmental organizations. Some Tarlay residents speculated that because Chakuni village is close to ethnic armed groups, the government is afraid of traveling to the village and areas nearby to provide aid and supplies to the earthquake victims. Chakuni residents said that all houses in the village were damaged and 22 people died while praying in a village church, while everyone else inside the church was seriously injured.


NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA have started talks about a potential volcanic threat from the peninsula's highest mountain, in a rare moment of co-operation after months of confrontation. The meeting at the South Korean border town of Munsan came amid heightened concern over natural disasters after the killer earthquake and ensuing tsunami devastated north-eastern Japan. Following the Japanese disaster, Pyongyang's earthquake bureau had proposed joint research into possible activity at Mount Paekdu on the border between North Korea and China - a peak considered sacred by both sides. Since its last eruption in 1903, the mountain has been inactive. But experts say it may have an active core, citing topographical signs and satellite images. In the event of an eruption, a huge lake could overflow and deluge surrounding areas.

INDONESIA - Merapi’s Massive Mud Flows Destroy More Homes as Heavy Rains Continue. Vast torrents of volcanic mud washing down the slopes of Mount Merapi have destroyed or damaged more than 600 homes over the past few days. 106 homes have been destroyed by the mud flow, or lahar. Another 323 have suffered heavy damage, 105 moderate damage and 91 light damage. Another 11 houses are at risk. Salam, where 413 of the 625 damaged homes are located, has been the worst-effected subdistrict. The lahar has also destroyed 11 bridges, damaged four others and cut off three roads. It has left more than 3,400 people living in temporary shelters, five months after Merapi began its biggest eruption in a century. The lahar was being fed by vast quantities of volcanic ash washed by heavy rain into the Putih and Pabelan rivers, which dumped it downstream on the affected communities.
Authorities had been trying to ease the problem by dredging the rivers using heavy equipment, and by building levees to stop the rivers bursting their banks. However, many of the levees have proven too weak in the face of the lahar. The authorities had been using the mud dredged from the rivers to build up the levees. “What they should do is cart that mud away so that there’s no possibility of it washing back into the rivers when it rains." New houses for people left homeless by Merapi’s devastating October eruptions had been completed this month. “At the moment, the new houses are being prioritized for the survivors of the eruptions. Victims of the lahar will get new shelters in the second phase of building [to begin in April].”
The lahar that hit Sleman this week flowed down the Opak and Gendol rivers, destroying homes in at least two villages. The torrents of mud will continue to pose a serious threat for at least the next four YEARS. Last year’s eruptions deposited an estimated 150 million cubic meters of ash and rock across Merapi’s slopes. It is estimated that more than two-thirds of that remains on the mountain.
The administration had been forced to extend the emergency period announced after the eruptions from the end of March to the end of April to deal with the lahar. They blamed the unseasonably heavy rains that are washing the volcanic ash into the Code River. The lahar there has damaged or destroyed around 1,000 homes this month alone. The local office of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency has predicted the rainy season will end in April.

INDONESIA - Alert Level Lowered for Karangetang As Lava Flows Begin to Slow Down. The government has lowered the alert level for North Sulawesi's Mount Karangetang following a decrease in lava and pyroclastic flows produced by the erupting volcano.

Deep-sea volcanoes don't just produce lava flows, they also explode! - Geology researchers' discovery of high concentrations of CO2 at mid-ocean ridges confirms explosive nature of certain volcanic eruptions Between 75 and 80 per cent of all volcanic activity on Earth takes place at deep-sea, mid-ocean ridges. Most of these volcanoes produce effusive lava flows rather than explosive eruptions, both because the levels of magmatic gas (which fuel the explosions and are made up of a variety of components, including, most importantly CO2) tend to be low, and because the volcanoes are under a lot of pressure from the surrounding water.
Over about the last 10 years however, geologists have nevertheless speculated, based on the presence of volcanic ash in certain sites, that explosive eruptions can also occur in deep-sea volcanoes. But no one has been able to prove it until now. A researcher has now discovered very high concentrations of CO2 in droplets of magma trapped within crystals recovered from volcanic ash deposits on Axial Volcano on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, off the coast of Oregon. These entrapped droplets represent the state of the magma prior to eruption. As a result, they have been able to prove that explosive eruptions can indeed occur in deep-sea volcanoes. Their work also shows that the release of CO2 from the deeper mantle to the Earth's atmosphere, at least in certain parts of mid-ocean ridges, is MUCH HIGHER THAN HAD PREVIOUSLY BEEN IMAGINED. Given that mid-ocean ridges constitute the largest volcanic system on Earth, this discovery has important implications for the global carbon cycle which have yet to be explored.


Tropical cyclone weakening but may still bring bad weather. Tropical cycloneBune which lashed a small community of scientists on Raoul Island last night is set to bring strong winds and rain to New Zealand.

AUSTRALIA - A tropcial low hovering off the Northern Territory coast north of Darwin could develop into a cyclone as early as tomorrow. The weather bureau last night said there was up to a 50 per cent chance the low would develop into a cyclone.